The truth is stranger than fiction. We've all heard that, but Chris Masters proved that this week. If I'd seen it in a movie, I wouldn't have believed it. As if the first part wasn't a bit over the top – a call from his uncle saying that a neighbor had taken his mother hostage in her own house – the rest would be completely absurd. I will give Masters props for doing the right thing and calling the police rather than trying to handle it himself. Beyond that, if I'd heard that someone had ripped a tree out of the ground and used it as a battering ram to break out a window, I wouldn't believe it. But this is Masters, and he was driven to save his mother, so it makes perfect sense to me. Masters is quite the hero.
Bully Ray, on the other hand, not quite the hero type right now. While I understand getting carried away with your character, there's certain lines you don't cross, and he crossed one in a big way. Now, I will give Dixie props for stepping up and tying it all into Bully's character as she apologized, but even bigger was Bully stepping and admitting that he was wrong and apologizing for it. Further, Bully posted on Twitter today that he spoke to the person he made the comments to and they talked it out. That takes a big man, and I have to say I'm impressed. If it happens again, I won't be at all forgiving, but at this moment I won't completely rip the man apart.
Video > B+
The biggest swerve in professional wrestling history? Sorry, I have to give that to your father-in-law and his heel turn in WCW. But I will say that this was a really solid storyline. I wish it hadn't been so obvious that Bully was going to turn at some point. I thought he was fantastic as a face, better than he's ever been as a face, but I still knew he was going to turn at some point. But more than anything else, this was a fantastic opening video. Possibly the best ever from TNA. Bully narrating the way he did worked better than I'd have expected.
In Ring Segment > C
I know it's storyline, but Hogan sucking up TV still annoys me. I was really enjoying Joe, Magnus and Angle to the ring, but when Hardy came out I was worried. I'd read that Hardy had suffered a concussion at Lockdown, and I didn't think he should be working so soon after a head injury. I immediately texted Richard about it. Richard told me that they thought Hardy had a concussion, but they tested him and he came out clean. I feel much better about Hardy working the ring so quickly since there wasn't a concussion. They had made such a huge deal out of Anderson's concussion, but it felt like they were glossing over this. Nice to know TNA is taking care of the roster.
A&8's Segment > B+
I'm liking Bully telling the story of A&8's, all the little bits of string pulling Bully did through the past nine months. I like the way he's explaining how things went down, tying up all the loose ends, the swerves and questions. The whole thing is very well executed, but I worry that it will take up too much time through the two hours of Impact. I haven't read the spoilers, so I don't know what's been taped for the night, but this early on, I'm already a bit worried.
TNA Tag Team Title Match – Aries & Roode (c) vs Chavo & Hernandez > B+
Chavo was really on to start this match. Head scissors on Roode was crisp and well executed by both of them. Actually, almost every move executed by them all looked really solid. Hernandez can look a little rough compared to the other three, but he looked great. That running dive over the top from Hernandez was lovely. He did a great job of showmanship with it by backing up the ramp.
I said all those things about how clean everything looked, then Aries and Hernandez went over the top and Hernandez really got hung up on the bottom rope. That looked like it really sucked. I'm not sure I've ever seen Hernandez land and not move. I haven't heard anything, so I'm sure he must be okay, but that looked rather rough.
Compared to the WWE, it's nice to see the Tag Division in TNA looking more solid. I know there's only a couple teams, but they're teams we know and are not just tossed together for a week or two. But I was talking to Jesse Sherwood during this match about how tag teams always had names. Even those thrown together for just a couple weeks, they had names. It really feels like something is missing these days without those creative names.
Winners > Aries & Roode (11:57)
Video > B+
The X Division Evolution video reminded me of what the X Division once was, and what it isn't right now. The moves those guys hit were just ridiculous, and they did it with such style! I hope this means that they're picking things up again with the X Division and running with it, because that's the biggest thing I've been missing from TNA. I'd put up with Russo's booking again if we could get the X Division back to what it once was.
Okay, so the rules are --
230lbs weight limit
All Title matches are Triple Threat
Wrestler other than the Champ is pinned, he can't challenge for the Title
I'll admit that I was more drawn in by the moves and missed most of that, but a friend helping me out filled me in. Though I have to say I'll believe the X Division is back when I see the guys throwing sick moves in the ring week in and week out. TNA needs to return the X Division to its former glory, and now is the time to do it.
Backstage Segment > D+
Yes, Kenny King should feel like crap about the X Division! He's not been interesting or exciting, and hasn't proven himself to really be X Division since coming to TNA, and that's saying nothing for his blah mic work and his lack of character. The best thing TNA could do right now is bring back some of the best X Division guys and strap one of them right off the bat, then make Kenny King prove himself in the ring and on mic. I know he has it, but he sure hasn't shown it in TNA!
X Division Championship Match – Kenny King (c) vs Sonjay Dutt vs Zema Ion > B+
Dutt in the ring for less than a minute and we see the sick moves... Then a botch. That appeared to be all Dutt there. Then King botched outside onto Ion! I know with higher risk comes a bigger chance at huge botches, but I have to admit that I was shocked it wasn't Ion botching. I will give Ion props for having a clean match when the other two in the ring didn't. Maybe he is learning and growing. I'm not changing my mind on him just yet, but he looked a lot better in the ring with Dutt. He worked really well on some of those bigger moves. Maybe he needs some great X Division wrestlers around him to work with so he can improve.
King's ring work in this match was less X Division and more hard hitting. I know there's some X Division wrestlers who were more hard hitting, but that's not what the X Division is all about, and I'm hoping things will swing back to where they once were. All that being said, this was the best X Division match we've seen in a long time. It was more X Division than we've seen the Division in a couple years!
That moonstomp was sick! Sadly it seems easy come, easy go with Dutt. I really wanted to see Dutt sticking around in the X Division, that man proved in this match that he can move, never mind the work he's done in that TNA previously. I'm going to keep my toes crossed that he'll be back soon. Dutt is a fantastic wrestler, and I'm going to chalk up his issues in this match on nerves and getting back in the X Division groove of things. It's sure not because he's green.
Winner – Kenny King (4:48)
A&8's Segment > B+
Bully really did a great job continuing to explain the questions and the swerves. He's not taken too much time from the show for me so far, and he's reminded me of questions I wondered about when they happened. I think they're doing a fantastic job explaining each little swerve and question. Not the way things are normally done, but I think it's interesting and refreshingly different.
Backstage Segment > B-
Hide in the rafters for a couple years? Sting is playing this really well, and other than Hogan's final line, Hogan came off as a whiny old man who hasn't been able to let go of the past.
Video > C+
I'm liking the storyline between Taryn and Kim, but I worry that it's taking a top competitor out of the Title run, and they don't have enough Knockouts to be doing that right now. TNA has really burnt their bridges with former Knockouts – they proved that with how few returned for the Knockouts PPV – and they shouldn't be pulling their best out of the top.
In Ring Segment > C+
The one thing I do like is Taryn's new strut as she headed for the ring. Between the suits she wore as Tiffany in WWECW, and the boring character she's been as ref, this is a nice change of pace. Kim, on the other hand, looked really strange in that dress. She talks the talk – or at least tries - but something in it all is not believable. And then there's Brooke who isn't dressed like any executive I've ever seen. When she was running with Bully it was one thing, but as the boss it's terrible.
That spear from Taryn was really solid. I'm quite impressed. I don't remember much of her in the ring, and she was running with Kelly Kelly, so I'm sure it wasn't fantastic, but that was a nice spear. Hopefully there's more good to come.
Bully appearing on the ramp behind Brooke was good, but I will say that Brooke played a bit too dumb. The fans telling her that he was behind her and she made a big deal at pointing to where Taryn and Kim went. But I will say they both handled that segment really well, and I'm still not convinced Brooke won't be part of A&8's when the time comes. But it also appears that this is when Bully's homophobic slurs came about. I heard what sounded like Bully saying, "You're a sissy!" to someone. I rewound it and listened again, and it absolutely sounded like Bully. They couldn't cut it out as it would have cut out some of Brooke talking, and that was an important bit, but I doubt it's what they wanted going on TV.
EDIT – Jesse Sherwood, new WNW writer of The Smackdown Breakdown, and new WWENews.net writer, went back and watched, and did some research on this subject for me. We've been helping each other out Thursday and Friday nights during our respective shows with this type of thing. He found a video of Bully's slurs, and discovered that it was after the end segment of last week's Impact that the incident happened. Thanks to Jesse for doing the research, and I'll pay you back.
A&8's Segment > B
The Anderson part of the storyline makes no sense. I still don't believe he's part of A&8's. The D'Lo thing was funny. (I wrote part one of a ) That was so obvious all along, and the clues he dropped were great. Wes and Garett also made perfect sense, but then this video seemed to drag on a bit too long.
Backstage Segment > B-
Not Angle's best segment. He came off a big flat here.
Morgan vs Joseph > B-
It was mentioned to me that Morgan was looking a bit chunky, that he had love handles. I pulled up some older pictures of Morgan and waited. While Morgan hasn't ever really nipped in at the waist – meaning his sides have always been very vertical without much narrowing from ribs to hips – I can see why someone might think he's looking a bit chunky, or have some love handles going on. Other than the few times he was really cut, Morgan's waist has never been the trimmest, and the creative man-scaping isn't helping the issue. Maybe that's why he wears those t-shirts.
Morgan calling his moves was great, but I didn't need Taz telling me how funny it was. Morgan looked solid in the ring until his clothesline didn't go right through Joseph. A bit of Abyss came through in how Joseph took that move. I think that's the first time I really saw Abyss in Joseph, other than when he sees the light, or blood. Okay, Taz was funny calling Joseph the Hindenburg. This match was good in some ways because it showed character development and some solid moves, but in other ways it was a depressing mess. This is what Morgan has been reduced to? I know he's had character problems his whole career, but this feels like another step to the side rather than forward. I guess I could say the same for Joseph. It's time for his character to more forward in big jumps, not these dainty little skips we've been seeing.
Winner – Morgan (5:13)
Video > C
A recap of AJ. So I'm guessing he's up next. I hope they do something interesting with his character, something new and unexpected. I worry after the crap he's had to deal with since Hogan arrived. What does Hogan have against AJ?
Backstage Segment > B
Hardy was actually better in this segment than he has been much of the past year. Well spoken, clear and not trying to act all deep and artsy.
In Ring Segment > C+
AJ got right up close to Tenay when he got in the ring, but I wouldn't say anything either, Tenay was just annoying. Taz wasn't any better, but at least he had a bit of character behind him. It wasn't until Storm came out that the segment actually got better. Except Tenay wouldn't even let Storm have the mic.
All AJ needs is a bit of face paint and to be hanging in the rafters and we'd have Sting. I don't know where they're going with this, but at least it doesn't look like AJ will be joining A&8's anytime soon, and that's a very good thing in my book. I'm not going to say good or bad on AJ's character yet, but I will admit that I'm quite worried. Again, any clue what Hogan has against AJ?
A&8's Segment > B+
I have to say they did a really great job with these segments. I really was worried that they would take too much time from the show, but they were produced so well, and Bully sold it with his narration. Not something I'd want to see often, but for this storyline, with all those swerves and questions, it was marvelous.
#1 Contender Match – Joe vs Magnus vs Angle vs Hardy > B+
Looking at the four guys in this match, one of them seems out of place. The histories of these guys are long, even Magnus who's the youngest of the group, he's worked the ring since 2005 and knows what he's doing in there.
I really enjoyed everyone in this match, they worked well together and have a really solid match, but in some ways Magnus seemed the odd man out because he doesn't have the long history of the other three. We've seen him work with the other guys in this match, but not like this. I thought he more than carried his own weight and was a shining star for me because I didn't know as much of what to expect from him. Magnus did struggle catching Hardy flying, but with the help of the corner he stayed on his feet and made it work. Then the way he lifted Joe and slammed him to the mat like it was nothing! And he took the bumps as good as he got. I've always known Magnus was good, but this match was like a Magnus epiphany
I loved the dueling chants of, "We want Angle!" and "We want Joe!" I had to snort at Taz saying he loved the A&8's chants. The way each wrestler got their shining moments in turn was handled better than I've seen many times. Sadly I figured that Hardy would be winning this match. He does deserve his rematch, but I'm more than ready to see someone new go after the WHC. All four are deserving, and hopefully we will see one of them going after Bully next. Last thing I want is a long Bully/Hardy feud.
Winner – Hardy (12:19)
While the Bully narrative videos were unexpected, I thought they were wonderfully made and did a great job of filling in the storyline gaps. Even if a lot of those swerves were not planned out in the original grand scheme of things, Bully did a great job of tying up all the loose ends and making every move calculated. If it wasn't for the sour note hanging over him from last week, I would be talking about how great Bully was on mic and in character, but sadly he took it too far with a fan.
Normally TNA gives us forty-five to fifty-five minutes of wrestling on Impact, not not this week. I don't know if it was Bully's videos about all the swerves and creative moves A&8's made over the past nine months, but there was only 34:17 of wrestling. Hopefully this is just a one time thing and not a routine they're going into now that they're on the road.